Friday, June 8, 2012
Three under-the-radar moves: Rams
By Mike Sando
A look at three potentially significant under-the-radar offseason moves for each NFC West team, kicking off with the St. Louis Rams:
1. Signing Steve Smith. The former Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants receiver is three seasons removed from a career year featuring 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Microfracture knee surgery imperiled his career and made him available to the Rams on the cheap. Smith has been healthy to this point in the offseason. He could be an under-the-radar difference maker for the Rams.
2. Special-teams overhaul. This one could work out well or backfire. Either way, the Rams have remade their special teams in dramatic fashion. Their kickers, punters and snappers are the youngest in the NFL on average. Josh Brown and Donnie Jones are out after mostly successful runs with the team. Jones was not the best directional punter and that seemed to hurt the Rams at times last season (including on one of the punts Patrick Peterson returned for a touchdown). New special-teams coach John Fassel had his ups and downs with Oakland. He doesn't get to bring Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski or Jacoby Ford with him. Sixth-round pick Greg Zuerlein is the new kicker. Tom Malone and Johnny Hekker are the punters.
3. Signing Jo-Lonn Dunbar. The Rams were desperate for linebackers. Dunbar, signed from New Orleans at modest cost, appears likely to start this season. His value goes beyond whatever Dunbar contributes on the field. His knowledge of the system should benefit the Rams' other linebackers, especially defensive leader James Laurinaitis. That seemed even more important after the NFL suspended coordinator Gregg Williams, who coached Dunbar in New Orleans.